Wednesday morning, I knew I needed the bus pass. Normally my son takes the pass so he can go to school Downtown daily. I am not employed at the moment so he gets the pass. If I'm working, we can afford two bus passes. On days when I have travel plans, he gets to use cash or tickets, since he merely has to go in in the morning and back out in the evening, while I get the pass so as to make transfers easier.
Port Authority's fare policy does not allow for multiple transfers, and the 2010 TDP changes made these much more common. A trip to Crafton from my house, for example, requires three bus trips, not two. Three-bus trips are not difficult, but now do require paying the full fare twice. Four-bus trips require both two full fares and two transfer fees. Crossing a zone boundary adds yet another dollar. My total cost, $6.50 one way, compares to only $4.25 from the bus stop at the other end of my street. The difference is that double transfer. The fare is only $2.25 to go just from Downtown to Crafton.
My original plan for Wednesday was to run an errand in Crafton in the morning, return Downtown for a meeting in late afternoon, then go home in the evening, a minimum five rides: three full fare payments with two transfers, and crossing the Zone 2 boundary twice, minimum $9.75. Plans changed en route, however, resulting in a mid-day side trip to Squirrel Hill, and another quick trip out Liberty Avenue after dinner before heading home around 8pm. All in all, the day required 8 buses. Fare on all 8 would have been around $16.
Making all these trip and transfers was fairly easy. Not once all day did I wait more than 10 minutes for a bus. To me, this means the system works. Wherever you want to go, the system will do that for you. Also worth noting was that I spent $75 in six stores in three neighborhoods. Transit got me from store to store. Had I made the equivalent trip by car, I would have had at least $5 in gasoline, and parked the car five times, at least 3 of these for payment, if only at a meter. Had I looked ahead to such a trip, I probably would not have gone at all, or begged off the side trips.
One does not ride a bus. One rides the system. Sometimes it takes two buses, or three, or more, to get where you are going, and two or three to get back. My point is that by having a day pass as an option when first boarding, one must no longer be concerned with fare payment for whatever trips must be made. Charge a fair price for this. Not everyone is going to ride 8 buses, but neither should it be priced at merely a ride in and a ride back. Three maybe, or three and a piece. At $2.25 for a base fare, that would work out to about $7, which seems reasonable for the services provided. I expected to ride four or five, but it took eight, and three of those eight were after 7pm. In fact, all but the first two were off-peak.
In summary, not having a day pass keeps people from even trying to use the system, and makes it more difficult to use. The day pass takes the complexity and extreme cost out of fare payment, making the system inherently welcoming, and a clear alternative to using the automobile in the city.